Fire Aviation a Love Story

Tanker 82

            A shock wave passed through the fuselage and the yoke twisted violently clockwise with sufficient force and movement to sprain Bob’s wrist and break his grip. Adrenalin dumped into his bloodstream blunting what pain he might have felt. His brain struggled to recognize the meaning of the sickening dull pop that had accompanied the physical abuse and spastic movement of the aircraft as he took back possession if not control of the yoke. He looked at, Joe, his co-pilot, “What happened!!??” he blurted into the microphone resting on his lips, an appendage of his headset.

Their eyes met. Joe’s mouth parted but there were no words. He was on the controls as well. Strain registered in his eyes and his usual crimson hue drained from his mottled sun scarred bald pate to his jaw.

Bob pressed the transmit button on his yoke as the plane torqued violently right then left. On Los Angeles approach frequency “Oh shit!” was all that was heard.  Towering craggy granite peaks began to fill the windscreen replacing the dingy blue Southern California version of sky just before a brilliant flash enveloped the cockpit. Joe winced and turned away from it to the left. The heat would have cooked his skin were it not for it’s brevity. The view twisted as the whaling moan of the third soul on board, Shawn, filtered through the intercom from the engineers position just aft of Bob and Joe. Then the wind came and the world turned. Random pages of a manual swirled around the cockpit chased by the detritus that had accumulated in the nooks and crannies of the thirty seven year old aircraft.

            The instrument panel of the C-130A, tanker 82, told part of the tale. The vital signs of the number three and four engines were flat lined and their power levers had slammed to idle of their own volition. Bob knew it was futile but it was not in him to quit. He shoved the two power levers forward. They moved without resistance or any discernable response while he stood on the left rudder attempting to arrest the sickening rotation to the right. He pulled one and two power levers back and the acceleration to the right diminished but the plane continued corkscrewing violently down to a discernable point on a slope of granite. Bob could begin to pick out individual trees in the sparse vegetation swirling below.

            “It’s gone,” spoke Joe, looking right. “The wing is gone.”